Channel 4 slashes programming budget by a quarter

Channel 4 will slash its programming budget by £150m and other costs by a further £95m in a bid to survive a collapse in advertising due to the coronavirus crisis.

The reduction reflects that shows that can no longer be produced as well as those that will be cancelled, the broadcaster said.

Advertising revenues will be down by more than half in April and May and it remained uncertain when they might recover. The broadcaster has no other meaningful sources of revenue.

Chief executive Alex Mahon said: “We are taking action now to manage our costs appropriately and ensure that we both protect our staff and our ongoing ability to serve our audience … we are committed to safeguarding our long-term ability to invest in distinctive and challenging content and create jobs and opportunities in the sector across the UK.”

About 10pc of staff will be placed on the government furlough scheme, all board members have taken a 20pc voluntary pay cut and bonuses have been axed.

Director of programmes Ian Katz said: “The coronavirus crisis has hit all commercial broadcasters with a double whammy of lost production and dramatically reduced revenues. We recognise that this is a desperately challenging time for all our colleagues in the production sector, particularly smaller indies and freelancers, and we believe we can support them best by continuing to commission shows and developing brilliant new ones for next year.”

There would be “some impact” on Channel 4 schedule, but shows that will be broadcast this year include Celebrity SAS, First Dates, Secret Life Of The Zoo, Gogglebox and 24 Hours In Police Custody.

Filming on the new series of The Great British Bake Off has already been delayed because of the crisis and a spokesman said it still hoped to have the show on air this year.

The lockdown has helped produce record ratings for some Channel 4 shows, with Friday Night Dinner winning 4.3m viewers – the biggest audience for a Channel 4 comedy in more than a decade. Gogglebox garnered a record 5.3m viewers while Celebrity Bake Off had its biggest overnight audience last week with 4.4m viewers.

Catch-up service All 4 also had its biggest day ever on Saturday March 28 and a record seven days for the following week.

The broadcaster remained committed to relocating some staff from its London headquarters and already had about 200 people in Leeds, Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow.

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